Labour Councillors have called on Westminster Councillors to display total transparency about the meetings Cabinet Members and the Chairman of the Planning Committee have with developers and to post a note of all meetings on the Council’s website.
In a note to John Walker, Director of Planning, Councillor David Boothroyd argues:
I notice that the Council issued guidance on Monday from the new Planning Committee Chairman and Cabinet member about meetings with developers and objectors:
It is certainly better that we have a memorandum about meetings, but the contents of the guidance give some concern. The requirement that applicants have paid for pre-application advice from officers before they can ask to meet with the cabinet member or committee chairman, while understandable in terms of ensuring officers are properly briefed on a scheme, might be capable of misinterpretation. If an applicant would not normally have sought pre-application advice from officers but does want to meet with the councillors, they are now in effect required to pay to access councillors.
Should ward councillors not be invited to participate in any meeting relating to their own ward?
Given that reports from all these meetings are obviously going to be written (otherwise they would not be sent to the chairman, cabinet member and council leader), and are disclosable under the Freedom of Information Act, why not simply make them all public from the start? (This is what is done in Hammersmith and Fulham.)
Is there any plan to issue specific guidance on ward councillor engagement with developers? This is something that happens frequently and routinely (the national guidance encourages it).
The new planning committee has not yet been established but can I request that this item is debated at its first meeting?
Cllr David Boothroyd (Westbourne Ward, Labour)